A federal appeals court has chosen to protect the life of a Coptic Christian who faces "likely torture and possible death" if he is returned to his native Egypt, where Islamic Shariah law is cited as the source of justice.
The case had been highlighted by spokesman Sam Grace of Coptic News. He praised U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie's ruling at the time that Khouzam "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured."
"Judge Vanaskie found that there was a compelling case for the argument
that deportation would cause irreparable harm and that the record bore
out that if Sameh was returned to Egypt, he probably would face torture," Grace told WND then.
Now the American Center for Law and Justice is noting a ruling just days ago from the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals giving Khouzam the right to challenge Egypt's "diplomatic assurances" that he would not be tortured on his return to the Middle East nation.
The appeals court also continued permission for Khouzam to remain in the U.S. during his case.
The ACLJ and its European counterpart, the European Center for Law and Justice, had filed amicus briefs in Khouzam's case.
"It is very encouraging to see the federal appeals court take action to protect the human rights of a Coptic Christian who is likely to face torture and possible death if he returns to Egypt," said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the ACLJ.
"The federal appeals court blocked the federal government's desire to deport Khouzam and clears the way for him to challenge Egypt's assertions he will not be tortured," he continued.
"The fact is that as a Coptic Christian, Khouzam effectively has no rights in his native Egypt and quite frankly because of his religious beliefs is certain to be denied the most basic of human rights and protections," Sekuulow said. "We're pleased that the federal appeals court rejected the U.S. government's appeal and moved to keep Khouzam out of the hands of a government that is likely to gravely punish him because of his religious beliefs."
The ruling said Khouzam was denied due process and said the government "did not permit Khouzam to see the written diplomatic assurances that had been obtained from Egypt, and provided no information pertaining to the government's reasons for crediting those assurances."
The ACLJ had argued in its brief Coptic Christians like Khouzam struggle even for basic religious freedoms in Egypt.
"Despite international disapproval, the Egyptian government 'continues to deny Copts basic rights such as judicial and police protection from persecution, freedom of religious expression and worship, and equal opportunity employment.' As a result, millions of Coptic Christians have immigrated to Western countries to flee persecution in Egypt," the brief argued, quoting Coptic Christians who monitor the nation.
The brief also said the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) should apply in the case. CAT states "[n]o State Party shall expel, return … or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."
"We live in a time that is really as bad if not worse than the time of the martyrs," he said as the case progressed. Multitudes of Christians have been attacked, and many killed, yet not one Muslim ever has been convicted in the attacks, he said..
"The why is very simple, because Shariah law says the blood of the Muslim should not be shed for the blood of an unbeliever," he said.
Grace said since Egypt's constitution concludes laws derive from the Quran, persecution of Christians is not only allowed but endorsed by the government.
"In the last 10 years, more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in Egypt," he told WND. "Hundreds of businesses and homes first have been looted, then burned and destroyed. Churches have been burned and destroyed."
Grace told WND that attacks, lootings and burnings are common in Egypt on Fridays, after the local imam preaches violence against Christians at his mosque.
"The life of a Christian in Egypt is now worth zero. Every Muslim now knows killing a Christian [is not prosecuted]," he said.
A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years.
"They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report concluded.
Khouzam spent nearly eight years in immigration custody when he first arrived in the U.S. because Egyptian officials said he had killed someone before leaving Egypt. He denies the accusation.
According to reports from his supporters, the scenario happened this way:
Khouzam was resisting police demands to convert to Islam, so authorities abducted his mother and said she would not be released unless he converted. He made the promise, but when he was pulled in front of a Muslim woman, to whom he was ordered to be married as part of his conversion, he resisted.
The woman's mother tried to hit him with a vase but he blocked the attack and cut a tendon in his hand. While being treated for the injury, Khouzam climbed out an open bathroom window and escaped from the hospital, running for the airport where some friends helped him get a ticket to the U.S.
According to federal documents, it was confirmed by officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City that Khouzam arrived with a bandaged hand, a wound he blamed on a fight with the woman.
The woman was the one who allegedly was killed, police said, an incident for which Khouzam was convicted in Egypt even though he wasn't present.
Numerous international human rights groups have dedicate time and effort to his case, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the appeals court provided "a significant victory for due process and the rights of all people – citizens or not – to be free from torture."